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Top fitness trends for 2021: What they mean for midlife women

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The Australian Institute of Fitness (AIF) has listed what their research shows as the top fitness trends for 2021. In this post I take a look at five of the top trends and what they mean for midlife women. In 2021 we’re seeing a more holistic approach to fitness. New trends are emerging that have plenty of positives for both our physical and mental health. But, as lycra leotards and crimped hair in the 80s taught us, some trends should be approached with caution!

Exercise is medicine 

The lockdowns of 2020 showed us how important being physically active is for our mental health. A daily walk through my local parklands did wonders for my overall fitness and mindset during this time. I wrote about this in a blog post here.  

Exercise is definitely medicine, but it’s not necessarily the only medicine we need in 2021. As well as being in a global pandemic us midlife women are also coping with hormonal havoc! Menopause symptoms like hot flushes, anxiety and mood swings can really affect your quality of life, even if you exercise regularly and have good lifestyle habits.

AIF CEO Steve Pettit predicts that there’ll be an increase in referrals and collaboration between health care providers and fitness professionals. This is a trend I’m 100% onboard with! If menopause symptoms are making you miserable please talk to your doctor. There are safe and effective treatments that can really help, and can complement ‘exercise as medicine’. 

Mind and body training 

In 2021 expect to see yoga, Pilates, meditation and breathwork become more mainstream and accessible. Most gyms are already adding yoga and Pilates classes to their schedule, a trend I hope is here to stay.

Including mindfulness practices as part of your overall fitness routine is so beneficial in midlife. It can equip us for dealing with the physical and emotional challenges we face. For example, as women we have a higher risk than men as we age of chronic neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease (Mosconi 2019).

Whilst we can’t do much about our genetic predisposition to these diseases we can lower our overall risk. We need to work on our brain health as much as our body health! One way to do this is by reducing stress through practices like yoga and meditation.

Virtual fitness 

2020 forever altered the way we participate in fitness activities. The shutdown of gyms forced to the move to online fitness and many of us will stick with these virtual options. This is a trend that will continue to grow thanks to three factors: cost; convenience; and confidence. 

One way you can make the most of this trend is to try a class that you’ve shied away from in the past. This can be a great confidence boost for us.  

For a long time I was too shy to do a dance class in person, worried about looking like a clumsy-mumsy amongst the millennials. A virtual dance class was a great way to break down my inhibitions and have fun and get a cardio workout! 

Just be careful not to over-extend yourself if you’re doing online fitness classes. This is so important if you’re not used to doing a particular exercise or you’re not sure of correct form. You’ll risk ending up very sore and/or injured if you push yourself too hard.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

The explosion in popularity of this training has resulted in the growth of HIIT studios such as F45.  Expect to be bombarded with ads and deals to join this craze – it’s one of the top five fitness trends of 2021. HIIT combines short periods of intense exercise with periods of rest or lower intensity exercise. For many people it’s a great way to exercise but this trend raises some red flags for me.  

HIIT increases cortisol, a hormone which promotes stress whilst increasing inflammation and the risk of joint, muscle and heart issues. This type of exercise can be really taxing for midlife women, Also, good sleep – something that many of us struggle with – is vital for our muscles to recover from a HIIT workout.  

If you’re used to HIIT workouts and you thrive on them then keep up the awesome work, but don’t worry if you don’t. There are other ways to exercise that can still be effective but are more gentle on our bodies. Start here for an introduction to strength training. 

Health and Wellness Coaching 

You only have to spend a minute on social media to know that health and wellness coaching is a massive industry worldwide. In the US alone it’s estimated to be a $6 billion service market!  

So what exactly is health and wellness coaching? Health coaching uses conversational skills to encourage you to explore an issue and come up with ideas for positive change. An example of this is working with a health coach to implement a healthy eating plan. Health coaches ideally have a qualification in an allied health field; exercise physiologists; dietitians; and naturopaths for example. Wellness coaching addresses the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual elements of your life for optimal wellbeing.

There’s no doubt we can benefit from health and wellness coaching in midlife. With so many changes, challenges and opportunities during this time, having expert advice and support can really help you thrive.

If health or wellness coaching is something that you’re considering please be aware that the wellness coaching industry is unregulated. This means that unlike, say, psychology which in Australia is regulated by the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act, there’s no similar regulatory body for wellness coaching.

Therefore, there’s no minimum standard of qualifications, skills and experience required to be a wellness coach. Please check a coach’s credentials before agreeing to work with them. 

Don’t just follow trends, make the best choices for you

Midlife brings many upheavals and during this time our physical, emotional and nutritional requirements need some tweaks. What served us well in our 40s may not do so in our 50s and beyond. Rushing into the latest exercise trend can be a waste of our time and money or worse – detrimental to our health and wellbeing. 

I hope that by reviewing the latest fitness trends through the lens of midlife women I’ve encouraged you to make the best choices for you and your body. 

What do you think about the latest fitness trends? Will your approach to fitness change in 2021? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to know!

Sally xx

You can find the full list of the Australian Institute of Fitness’ top 10 fitness trends for 2021 here


The XX Brain, by Dr Lisa Mosconi (2019)

Health Coaching is a $6 Billion Service Market According to U.S. Department of Labor

4 thoughts on “Top fitness trends for 2021: What they mean for midlife women”

  1. Hi Sally, great article and thanks for all the information.
    Personally in 2021 I will keep doing my Qi Gong class on line from my local community house, Tai Chi on line from Don Fiore ( u tube) Meeting up and meditating with friends on messenger helps the mind in so many ways.A nice walk along a local beach is great and this year I hope to be walking along the beautiful beach at Port Douglas every day for 3 months. Hopefully this year it will happen.

    1. You’re certainly up with trends, Fit Fab Seventyish!😍 There’s so many great online options and it can only get even better. Nothing beats a beach walk ‘tho! 💕💕

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